The month of September ushered in a new wave of thoughts and questions. I realized I’ve been a surveillance realist [one that doesn’t mind or care that data about them is being collected and perhaps misused]. But in taking a class called Quantified Self, I began an internal process of questioning the ecosystem of convenience that is built around me.
In some capacity, this convenience is only possible through sensors and trackers. I realized that I’m constantly being tracked. My automatic lights are tracking me, my bathroom faucet is tracking my movement, the campus cameras alway know where I am…not to mention the MFA [multi-factor authentication system] that ensures that someone always knows what device I am on and possibly what sites I’m visiting. And don’t even start on what my smart devices.
Granted, most of these are innocuous trackers that are helpful towards making life “easier” – but at what price?.
I set out to question myself of the ways that I intentionally track myself. And although I’ve never done any serious self-optimization project as Benjamin Franklin did. I know there’s has been ways in which I’ve kept track of some aspect of my life. I thought about my calendar, where all the hours of my day are intentionally laid out so I can keep track of my time. I also think of my journal as I intentionally write down my thought process throughout a day and reflect on it – tracking my mind. Or my notes every time I go to the gym as I track what I’ve done to measure my own progress against previous weeks.
But this begs the question, how else am I unintentionally tracked? Then I think about the simple act of using my smartphone: just by pressing the on button, I’m revealing my location, my preferences in applications, my preferences on the content I view, the things I search for. But are there other ways of incidental tracking? Like how my GPS tracks me even when its turned off?
I even began to rethink some things that I considered commonplace on campus…could they be forms of unintentional tracking too? Is the campus dirhams usage tracking my spending patterns to determine what students buy and how much of it so they adjust their budgets and stocks? Is the meal swipe tracking my food choices so they can offer one more nutritional seminar on healthy eating? Does my air condition know my optimal temperature by tracking my preferences over time?
What else does the world know about me that I may not be aware of? What does it know about US?